What I’m Learning About How to Treat Our Adult Kids Like Adults

Knowing how to navigate the lives of our adult kids, as parents, can be challenging as we learn where the line is drawn.

We were in Michael’s craft store last Sunday, and Jayme had wandered off to look at something. When I was ready to go, I saw her across the store and hollered, “Jaymeloo!” to get her attention.


Jaymeloo is my daughter’s childhood nickname, and I had shouted it across the store. My shoulders sank, and I sighed deeply. For quite a while, I had been trying purposefully to stop treating my kids like they were kids, but the mom in me had risen up like an unstoppable wave right there in Michael’s.

I’m 52, and I have a 27-year-old daughter who is married and with our first grandson, who is 19 months old. I also have a 24-year-old son who is married. I’m trying to figure out this whole parenting-adult-kids thing, but it’s hard to know what to do. I used to hand out commands to them like nobody’s business, you know?

Pick up your room. Put on your shoes. Finish your peas. Say thank you. Don’t yell in the house. Wipe your feet. Be home by 10. Clear your place. I used to buy their clothes and decide what they should eat for dinner and tuck them in and kiss their little cheeks and help in their classroom at school. But now? Now what?

I’m trying–at the very least trying–to be mindful of my disposition to mother my grown kids almost to death.

Don’t Assume Your Adult Kids Plans

Thanksgiving is coming up, and I was thinking about how fun it would be to have my kids around our table. Then it occurred to me that I shouldn’t assume they were coming. So, I texted my daughter-in-law and said, “Hello. I was wondering if you and Caleb would like to join us for Thanksgiving dinner?” It was a moment of success to consider that, as adults, they might have other plans.

Of course, we’ve told our adult kids clearly that they need to decide how to spend the holidays and just please let us know what their plans are. We’ve made it clear that we always want them with us but that we value their right to make their own holiday plans. But when it comes right down to it, my mother’s heart still leans toward expecting them to be with us. It takes some effort to remind myself to consider their autonomy.

Knowing When to Draw the Line

You know what’s even harder? Trying to navigate how to have a grown daughter who has her own kid now. At times, I can tell she wants her MOM. She wants her mom to dote on her and take care of her and help her with her little boy. But where do I find the line of still being a mother to my daughter but respecting the fact that she’s a grown woman who needs me to step back so she can raise her son and make decisions on his behalf? This is just hard.

The other day, my son was in a bouldering competition, and I hadn’t ever seen him climb. So, I went to watch, and I think it meant a lot to him to have his mom come to observe his sport, just like when he was nine years old and playing soccer. That was a moment when acting like a proud mom was the perfect choice.

Adult Kids May Not Enjoy Hovering

But the other day, Caleb was at the house and had just gotten a new laptop in the mail. I had a jolt of realization, at one point, that I was hovering over his shoulder as he set it up, asking a million questions. That is such a mom thing to do. It was attention he would have loved when he was little, but was it annoying to him now that he was a grown man? Does a grown man want his mother hovering over his shoulder? I apologized and backed off a bit. 

I don’t know some clear-cut answer to the question of mothering adult kids, but there is one thing I do know for sure: I want my kids to feel loved by me, with all of the motherly affection, but not smothered by me. They need to feel how proud I am of them but also how much I respect them as adults. They need me to be close, but they also need space. It’s not that I need to give up being a mom altogether, just that I need to reign it in.

Think Before You Act

All I can figure is that I need to do a lot of thinking and praying. I need to think before I move in close to my kids or before I speak to them. I need to pray just like I’ve needed to pray every year of their growing up–that the Lord would help me to understand my kids and give me wisdom about how to be their mom in this season.

And don’t shout a childhood nickname across a store. Definitely not that. 

With love from Montana,


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